Are People Who Have 8-10 Years at Their Current Company Dinosaurs?

I think an interesting thing has happened when it comes to careers, and it's probably not a good thing.  People have historically judged you by switching jobs too often.  That's why I always counsel people to stick it out a year (preferably two) before jumping out of a less that perfect situation.

But in today's high change environment, there's another way candidates are getting judged:

Candidates who are approaching the decade mark (10 years) with the same company are increasingly being viewed as Get off my lawn being low-change, less-than-nimble dinosaurs.

Too harsh?  Well, I'm working on my 8th year at Kinetix, which far outlasts any other stop I've made in my career (previous record - 5.5 years.  I don't feel less nimble, but I can understand how the marketplace might think I'm "settled in."

"Settled in" is code for:

--set in my ways

--telling young kids to "get off my lawn" at work

--digging the long lunch

--not stirring up necessary change

--understanding it's "beer-thirty" somewhere.

OK, I'm an owner/investor at Kinetix, so maybe my situation is a bit different.  Like the Eagles once said, I can check out, but I can never leave - but I don't feel like I've checked out.

Unfortunately for those of my ilk (minus the ownership part) that would like to make a move - The 8-10 year professional grade worker who has risen to Director level, etc - the market might view them as settled in/tired.   For some, that's absolutely an accurate description.  For others, it's unfair.

If you're part of the latter group - open to a change but wearing the scarlet letter of too much time at your current company - there are things you can do to signal to the world that you don't sleep at work and could actually #### some #### up if they take a chance and hire you.  Things like:

1--update your LinkedIn profile (turn off notifications if you don't want your company to be notified)

2--write something that shows your passion for what you do

3--if you're cranking out killer work product that's non-proprietary, share the slides/excel/word docs publicly

4--participate in professional groups/events outside of work

What am I missing 1-company people?  What else can people who have been at the same place 8-10 years do to show they are open to new opportunities?  

It's hard being a middle-aged professional and straddling the line between being content and being eligible for the external game.

If you want to be in the external game, you've got to act accordingly.

Now get the #### off my lawn.

This Year's Final Four Proves The Value of "Well Placed" over "Top" Talent...

If you're watching/following the NCAA Men's Basketball Tourney this year, your bracket is shot, your team is likely gone and there's only one thing left to do. 

What's that thing you ask?  

Look at the rosters of the teams that made the Final Four and make a Talent observation. Gonzaga  Naturally. 

This year, that observation is pretty simple.  If it's long term performance you're looking for, you're likely better off not chasing the top 1% of available talent, you're better off in the 75th to 95th percentile due to performance and retention considerations.  More for the setup from the Newton Daily News:

If you take a peak at to see who the top prospects for the upcoming NBA draft are, you’ll find a bunch of freshmen.  We live in a one-and-done world of college basketball. The rules force future NBA players to spend at least one season playing college basketball.

In the day of the one-and-dones, the four teams left in the NCAA Tournament are doing it with grown men.

Oregon has three freshmen on its entire roster, which is probably normal considering coaches bring in players every year to balance out rosters. Five Ducks are averaging in double-figures and four of them are juniors or seniors.

Gonzaga is probably one of the more successful programs in the country that does it with older players every year. The Bulldogs have freshman Zach Collins, who is projected to be a lottery pick. But he isn’t even one of the four Gonzaga players averaging in double figures.

North Carolina is a program one would think would be able to roll with the one-and-done model, but head coach Roy Williams has built this current roster differently. The Tar Heels lost in the championship game last year and are back in the Final Four with a team full of juniors and seniors.

South Carolina has the youngest team of any Final Four teams. The Gamecocks have freshman standout Rakym Felder and sophomores PJ Dozier and Chris Silva. But two of their top three scorers are senior guards who weigh an average of 218 pounds. Grown men.

The lesson for most of us is pretty simple.  Even if you can afford to chase top talent, it's probably not in your best interest.  Extrapolate the NCCA Final Four to your business, and the parallels are there.  You can chase top/top talent, but you'll likely pay more and have almost immediate retention concerns.  But lurking just underneath that talent pool is a group of candidates for any position that can deliver 80% of the performance for 60% of the cost/risk.  In addition, since the retention issues are diminished in this group, They'll deliver increasing performance over time because they'll stick around.

It's sexy to chase the rock star.  The Final Four is reminding us that the 85th percentile of available candidates is a place with pretty good ROI.

I'd rather my company be Gonzaga than Kentucky from a talent perspective.

The Heisenberg Rules: What HR Can Learn from Breaking Bad (#2 - Affiliation Matters)

Capitalist Note - I finally got around to binge-watching the former AMC hit Breaking Bad on Netflix, which follows high school chemistry teacher Walter White's journey through a lung cancer diagnosis and his subsequent turn to becoming a world-class meth producer.  This series (The Heisenberg Rules) represents what I was reminded of as a HR leader by Breaking Bad.  If you haven't seen the series, you can view a synopsis by clicking here. Spoilers abound in this series.

Rule #2 in the Heisenberg Rules is AFFILIATION MATTERS:

One of the best things about Breaking Bad is the time it takes to develop the primary characters Pinkman in the series.  In my last post in this series, we talked about the emasculation of Walter White. Would he have turned into the monster he became if those around him could/would have acknowledged his high performance?  We'll never know.

Today we move away from Walter White and take a look at my favorite character in the series - Jessie Pinkman.  Here's a description of Jessie: 

Jesse Bruce Pinkman is the deuteragonist of Breaking Bad. He is the former partner of Walter White in the methamphetamine drug trade. Jesse was a small-time methamphetamine user, manufacturer, and dealer. He was also an inattentive student in Walter White's chemistry class, leading to his dropping out. In his mid-20s, Jesse became Walt's business partner in the meth trade. Before his partnership with Walt, he, operating under the pseudonym "Cap'n Cook", added a little Chili Powder to make his methamphetamine stand out in the market.

Walt insisted on making a pure product, however, and thus eschewed the chili powder altogether, patronizingly teaching Jesse how to make "proper" meth. Walt often treated Jesse like a foolish son in constant need of stern correction. Jesse's own family kicked him out because of his drug use. Despite the friction between them, he and Walt have a deep bond of loyalty. Like Walt, Jesse is horrified by the brutality at the higher levels of the drug trade, but does what he thinks is necessary. He wrestles with feelings of guilt about the deaths, all drug-related, of people he's been associated with, especially his girlfriend Jane Margolis. He often attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings to help deal with these feelings.

Jessie's my favorite character because he actually struggles to cope with all the things he sees in the drug trade.  Still, he's a simple kid making a load of cash with few other options available to him professionally.  

Walter White and Jessie are "partners" only in finance.  As the subject-matter expert, Walter has all the power in the relationship.  The green shading above accurately outlines how Walter patronizes Jessie throughout the series, only appealing to him as an equal when there's a murder to be completed to ensure their safety. 

As a result of that treatment, Jessie is what I call, "gettable" for anyone who wants to take the time to drive a wedge between him and Walter.  

Jessie knows that Walter doesn't consider him a true partner.  That means people willing to treat him better than Walter have a chance to turn him to their side. That ultimately happens when Gus, a drug load who Jessie and Walter work for, instructs his henchmen to take Jessie out of the meth lab to run various organized crime errands with them. They even go to the trouble of setting up a fake robbery that Jessie can save others from, which results in praise, deeper connection and - you guessed it - Walter going crazy that their bosses have Jessie doing work other than being his patronized assistant.

When Walter displays his paranoia to Jessie about the new relationship he can't control, it pushes Jessie to trust his new friends more, not less.

Of course, they're all criminals, so what's the point?

The point is that in any organization, AFFILIATION MATTERS. 

Walter's the best at what he does, but Jessie is treated as manual labor, not a partner.  When the drug lords involved need to make Walter feel unstable and at-risk, all they have to do is show Jessie Pinkman the love he doesn't get from Walter:

--come work with us.

--come hang with us.

--seems like you're doing well - nice work!

It's the same blueprint whether you're developing software, running a restaurant, or yes - cooking Crystal Meth.

If you're treating someone valuable on your team like a commodity, just know this - if there's a market for their skills, all it takes is for someone who needs them (or needs to hurt you) to show them love, affiliation and respect.

Once that happens, they're probably gone.  Or as Jessie Pinkman would say, "YO, MANAGING PEOPLE 101, B***H".

ABOUT KEVIN LOVE: When You Recruit A Star, It Makes Sense to Maximize Their Chances For Success...

Let's face it, HR leaders, it's happened to you and your organization. You had a key role available. You helped your organization go out and do what was necessary to get the best talent available.  

Then a funny thing happened - The talent showed up, the scene they walked into at your company was kind of messed up, and the key hire left after two years.

In short, you did a great job on the recruiting front, but your organization and hiring executive failed to think about what changes were necessary to maximize the performance of the key new hire.

As a result, the new hire quickly got out of the honeymoon period and viewed your organization as a dysfunctional circus. You should have planned better.  You're not alone - the Cleveland Cavaliers should have planned better as well. Love meme
Consider these brief notes from Fansided on the on-boarding of Kevin Love, an all-star in professional basketball and recent underperforming, high-paid member of that NBA Franchise:

"In Love’s final season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he posted an incredible 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. He was one of the best rebounding big men in the NBA at the time, however, now he is nothing more than LeBron’s sidekick who makes a lot of mistakes.

(Capitalist Note - The Cavaliers traded for Love two years ago, seeking to put a third all star with existing team members Lebron James and Kyrie Irving.  The trade was universally greeted with applause, but Love's performance has been lacking in extreme ways..)

It seems like a perceived notion that the Cavaliers will shop Kevin Love this off-season, especially if they fall short in Game 7. The power forward hasn’t been the same player since being traded to Cleveland, however, that didn’t stop him from signing a $5 year, $113 million deal last summer. Love is set to receive $21.5M, $22.5M, $24M, and $25.5M over the next four seasons, and Cleveland would love to get that off their books.

The Cavaliers would much rather use that money somewhere else and also try to land a more valuable pick in the upcoming draft, even if it’s not a top-five selection.

Cleveland tried to turn Love into what Miami turned Chris Bosh into when LeBron spent four seasons with the Heat. They have him hang on the perimeter where most of his shots come from behind the arc now – 44.9 percent of shots. It has led to a significant decrease in his scoring and rebounding production as a result.

Part of the reason is that’s how big men have to play nowadays, however, the Cavaliers have banished his role in the paint. You rarely see Love post-up down low anymore, he’s used as a kick-out option for a driving teammate. Not only does it not fit his offensive game but it also cuts into his rebounding – the strongest part of his game."

The point to this - and there is one - is that the Cavs were just like your company at its dysfunctional best.  They looked for the best talent available and got the deal done.  Then the high-priced talent showed up, and no one asked the question of what was necessary to get the new hire performing at a high level.  You just gave them an office and expected him or her to figure shit out.

Of course, it's never that easy.  The Cavs opted to give Love a bunch of money.  But Love has a history of playing a certain way, and the Cavs didn't attempt to figure that out at all.  As a result, Love's putting up numbers that the market suggests are worthy of a third of what he's being paid.

The reality is that when you bring a high performer into your organization, you have to ask what you're doing to make sure the company gets the return on that investment.

The Cavs never asked that.  Your company doesn't either.  You just ask the new hire whether they want a Mac or a PC (after all, they're top talent! They deserve that choice!) and leave the rest to them. 

Love touched the ball in Cleveland 25% as much as he touched it in Minnesota.  Are you doing the same thing with a key hire at your company and still expecting them to perform at a star level?


"Organ Donors for The Rich" - Money Quote of the Day On Organizational Turnover...

You just lost another one.  People are looking to you, because... well, you're the HR leader and you're responsible for turnover, right?

Of course, you know that there are a lot of reasons that people leave.  But you also know that your calls for a more competitive compensation structure has fallen on deaf ears.

That's OK.  It actually gives you an opportunity to break out the following go-to line sure to be repeated away from HR:

--"We're organ donors for the rich" 

You need a go-to line to underscore your lack of competitiveness when it comes to total comp.  Would you rather go with "We're organ donors for the rich", or "we really need to look at the competitiveness of our comp plan next budget season"?

Words matter.  Use talking tracks that get repeated when you're not around.  It's part of your HR Brand.

Non-Competes and Non-Solicitation Agreements: You're a Sucker If You Don't Think They Apply To HR

So you locked down your sales team and the techies who drive the value of your intellectual property (IP) with a solid, enforcable non-compete and non-solicitation executed at the time of hire.  Sure they balk and complain, but you get most of those signed.  Congrads, smart move.

What's that?  You're glad you don't have to do the same with your HR team?  Really?  You don't have your HR Managers, Director and VPs and all your recruiters locked in to anon-compete and non-solicitation? Trust-but-verify

You're either a sucker or rationalizing to avoid the conflict.  Of course, your top HR talent and anyone who recruits should have to sign a fair non-compete.

Think about it - we're talking a narrowly drawn non-compete and non-solicitation.  Your top HR team members (I say manager and up) and anyone who recruits should have to sign one.  We're not preventing them from working by signing the non-complete, we're simply agreeing that they won't take all the training, contacts, employees and candidates that they've cultivated during their time with you to your most direct competitors.

A narrowly drawn non-compete and non-solicitation doesn't mean HR pros can't find work.  If fact, the HR game is one of the best in terms of its talent being able to cross industries and work.  That "career portability" means your HR team can sign a non-complete that's properly drawn (example - we're a software company and you can't go to work for another software company in our city/industry or that recruits developers proficent in the same programming language as our company) and find work pretty easily if they're talented in the HR game.

Why wouldn't you ask them to sign a fair non-compete and non-solicitation?  Because you either don't think they're talented enough to get the same job with your top industry competitor, or you don't want the drama of walking them through it and requiring it.

Either scenario sounds dicey to me.  

Draft the non-compete and non-solicitation and put it in front of them.  Explain the narrow parameters and require them to sign it.  You'll be happy you did somewhere down the line.

Should You Let Your Employees Vote About Where To Move Your Offices To? Probably.

I'm p*ssed off but I'm too polite
When people break in the McDonald's line
Mom and Dad you made me so uptight
I'm gonna cuss on the mic tonight

I'm rockin' the suburbs
Just like Michael Jackson did
I'm rockin' the suburbs
Except that he was talented
I'm rockin' the suburbs
I take the cheques and face the facts
That some producer with computers fixes all my sh*tty tracks

--Rockin' The Suburbs, Ben Folds

It's a classic example of "don't ask the question unless you're going to honor the answer."

Let's say you've decided that you're going to move your offices to another location - due to space needs, effective rent issues or other reasons.  You're in the market, looking at 5-6 different locations and you've cut it to two,both with a fairly even number of pros/cons.  

Do you let your employees vote on which location they'd rather be at?  HealthSouth, headquartered in Birmingham, recently did just that. More from

"HealthSouth CEO Jay Grinney surveyed all of his corporate employees while looking at potential sites for the new headquarters: Would you rather work in Liberty Park or in downtown Birmingham?

The company had narrowed down the move to spots in Liberty Park or in an area near Regions Field downtown. But the answer from the 500 employees who work in the corporate headquarters was resounding.

"Something like 70 percent of our employees preferred the [Liberty Park] site over downtown," Grinney said. "A lot of people and other leaders in the community were really urging us to go into the midtown location. I, personally, did not want to make a move where 70 percent of the corporate employees would not be happy."

How do you view that information?  55/45 probably doesn't tell you to go to one location or another.  60/40 might, but 70/30 closes the deal.  I think it's a good idea to ask people how they feel, but only if you're OK with giving that opinion weight in the final decision should the majority be clear and you're willing to report back.  Otherwise, don't ask.  

Grinney went on to take a shot at regional planning in the Birmingham metropolitan area:

"About a decade ago, officials suggested building an elevated toll road over U.S. 280, igniting a years-long controversy over the project. Communities including Homewood, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills protested the highway. Years later, the project lost momentum. 

"It's sort of ironic," Grinney said. "If we, as a community, had chosen to proceed with the elevated toll road that was being contemplated several years ago, that toll road probably would have been completed by 2018. Had that been the case, we probably would be going downtown, because traffic congestion would be a moot point." 

It's a good lesson that a lack of regional government will effectively slowly choke out the urban core of any city (in the case of Birmingham, affluent suburbs the toll road was going to have to be built through effectively killed the project).

As a result, HealthSouth will be rocking the suburbs - like Ben Folds.

You Think You Have Problems? Try Retention in the Missile Technology Industry...

Short post today, but a timely one given what's going on in the world.

You have retention problems. You've got pay issues, leadership issues and Sally said something nasty to Jeff.  It's a hard-knock life.

Then, there's the missile technology industry.  

As luck would have it, I found myself on the phone on Friday with a HR manager type embedded in a division of a government contractor that produces missile technology.

Her biggest issue? Trying to convince young talent that it's OK (forget cool) to develop missile technology that is bleeding edge - and ultimately used to kill people on a weekly (if not daily) basis across the world.

As it turns out, we can all rattle the battle shields to our heart's content in the aftermath of a event like Paris. But at the end of the day, someone still has to produce the technology and innovation that keeps us a step ahead in the modern world of warfare.

According to my HR manager friend on the front lines of the missile technology industry, it's getting harder to find young technical talent that wants to work on missile technology.  Once they're in the door, it's even harder to keep them. Seems as if the drone strikes have a draining effect on this section of the talent industry, as their innovation and work contributes to a lot of death.

I'm more of a hawk than a pacifist, but in listening to her talk, it's pretty jarring to remember that there are thousands of people inside that industry that have to live with the fact that their work contributes to a lot of pain around the world. It's one thing to arm a soldier with the tools they need - you can spin that defensively as well as offensively, right?

It's a whole other thing to work on technology that's delivered in a pretty automated way and may cause civilian casualties on a routine basis based on the way targets use civilian populations as shields.

What would you tell this HR Manager?  I told her the only idea I had is to look at the recruits with low sensitivity as the best cases for retention.  Low sensitivity means low empathy, with is probably a requirement if you're going to be in the missile technology industry given everything that's going on in the world these days.

So the next time you feel grumpy about retention, just remember your peers in the missile technology industry.  

Cut the B.S. and Evaluate The "Fit" of Potential Hires With Just 2 Questions...

We're doing a Cultural/Motivational Fit Month over at my company - Kinetix.  Re-running this post today here since it fits that theme.  Head over to our blog at Kinetix, Tremendous Upside, to get more nuggets on evaluating cultural and motivational fit on your candidates and sign up to see the themes we talk about each month...


When it comes to interviewing, Larry King you are not...

When it comes to the workplace, there's a lot of theory out there regarding the best way to interview candidates.  Whether it's a Behavioral Interview, a Skill-Based Interview or an interview filled with hypothetical questions, everyone's got a system.  Most hiring managers in my experience ask way too many hypothetical questions (examples - "How do you deal with low-performing employees?"), a style I'm critical of since it's so easy to BS your way through that type of interview.

The fact that hypothetical questions are easy to fake (No strengths?  Just make some up and sell it baby!) gave rise to the behavioral interview, which attempts to cut through the hype/spin by asking candidates about specific experiences they have had.  Unfortunately, the Behavioral Interview is only as good as the interviewer.  You can ask a behavioral question ("Tell me about a time you had to tell your boss they were wrong), but if the interviewee gives you hypothetical soft stuff back, you've got to have the ability to interrogate/grind on them about what they actually did when faced with that situation.  In my experience, even those with a lot of in-house training are limited in their ability to grind on a candidate.  Feels too much like interrogation.  Most of us hate confrontation...

What's my solution?  I'm a believer in the Behavioral Interview, but if I had only five minutes with aLarry_king2 candidate, I'd ask them the following two questions:

-Tell me when you have been most satisfied in your career...

-Tell me when you have been least satisfied in your career...

Those two questions measure Motivational Fit and are stunning in their simplicity.  Assuming you like the background and experiences of the candidate and are confident they can do the job, you really only need to evaluate if your company, the specific opportunity and the candidate are a fit for each other.  So ask these questions one at a time.  Once you get the response from the candidate, ask "why?" and say "tell me more" multiple times.  Then, s.h.u.t. u.p.   Seriously - stop talking.  Don't bail the candidate out, but rather force them to tell you what really jazzes them about jobs and companies, and subsequently, what drives them crazy.

Once you get that, you'll have what you need.  Candidate likes a a lot of structure, but all you can provide is that circus you call a company?  Move on.   Candidate likes to play ping-pong for 4 hours a day, but your CEO walks around evaluating if people are working hard enough by how unhappy they look?  Probably not going to work out.

Give it a try and spend at least 5 minutes on each item.  You'll be shocked at the value of what candidates tell you in response to these simple questions. 

The Time The CEO Raised the Minimum Salary to 70K and Found Out This People Thing is Kind of Complex...

This post is about unintended consequences.  Also about salary compression when a CEO decided to raise the minimum salary to 70K in his company.  

What could go wrong? More from the New York Times: YPO-Dan-Price-Gravity-Payments

"Three months ago, Mr. Price, 31, announced he was setting a new minimum salary of $70,000 at his Seattle credit card processing firm, Gravity Payments, and slashing his own million-dollar pay package to do it. He wasn’t thinking about the current political clamor over low wages or the growing gap between rich and poor, he said. He was just thinking of the 120 people who worked for him and, let’s be honest, a bit of free publicity. The idea struck him when a friend shared her worries about paying both her rent and student loans on a $40,000 salary. He realized a lot of his own employees earned that or less."

You're a hero Price.  Trump would consider you a commie, but screw Trump.  You're a humanitarian.  All the people who matter will love you for this.

Wait. Maybe not all of the people... Consider:

"The New York Times reports that two of Gravity Payments' "most valued" members have left the company, "spurred in part by their view that it was unfair to double the pay of some new hires while the longest-serving staff members got small or no raises."

Maisey McMaster — once a big supporter of the plan — is one of the employees that quit. McMaster, 26, joined the company five years ago, eventually working her way up to financial manager. She put in long hours that "left little time for her husband and extended family," The Times says, but she loved the "special culture" of the place.

But while she was initially on board, helping to calculate whether the company could afford to raise salaries so drastically (the plan is a minimum of $70,000 over the course of three years), McMaster later began to have doubts.

"He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didn’t get much of a bump," she told The Times. A fairer plan, she told the paper, would give newer employees smaller increases, along with the chance to earn a more substantial raise with more experience."

Salary compression. Damn.  Forgot about that.  Is there an HR pro in the house?  Probably not.  Well, at least the people who got the raise love what happened.

Wait- them too?  Sigh:

"The new pay scale also helped push Grant Moran, 29, Gravity’s web developer, to leave. “I had a lot of mixed emotions,” he said. His own salary was bumped up to $50,000 from $41,000 (the first stage of the raise), but the policy was nevertheless disconcerting. “Now the people who were just clocking in and out were making the same as me,” he complained. “It shackles high performers to less motivated team members.”

Mr. Moran also fretted that the extra money could over time become too enticing to give up, keeping him from his primary goal of further developing his web skills and moving to a digital company.

And the attention was vexing. “I was kind of uncomfortable and didn’t like having my wage advertised so publicly and so blatantly,” he said, echoing a sentiment of several Gravity staff members. “It changed perspectives and expectations of you, whether it’s the amount you tip on a cup of coffee that day or family and friends now calling you for a loan.”

Oh...right. High performers don't like socialism, and lots of people don't like others knowing what they make.  Got it.

Go read the whole article.  The lesson?  Capitalism works - for a variety of reasons.  Start compressing the difference between the most important employees and the masses, and you're going to have lot of unintended consequences.